Explore the natural beauty of Camp Helen State Park

May 5, 2019

Take a hike, bike or swim in Gulf of Mexico at this wonderful Florida State Park

A trail to the beach at Camp Helen. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Surrounded by water on three sides, Camp Helen State Park is nestled in natural beauty. Lake Powell, a rare coastal dune lake on the east, a salt marsh to the west, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, this gem of a park is unique in many ways.

Within the more than 180 acres, there are two paths leading to the beach from the main parking area. You can choose to walk along the lake, or a path through the shady canopy of a maritime hammock. You will spot a variety of flora, including southern magnolia, towering scrub oaks above and soft dollops of pale green deer moss along the forest floor.

Gulf blue lupine blooms in the springtime at Camp Helen State Park. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Trekking a bit further, you reach the rolling sand dunes. Blue lupine and sea oats are woven into the landscape of the ancient dunes.  The gulf coast lupine (Lupinus westianus) is threatened and endemic to Florida and unique to this area of Northwest Florida.

Once you arrive at the beach, you will spot the remains of an old fishing pier. Looking to the east you will enjoy the Lake Powell outfall to the Gulf and a stunning shell-filled beach. Wading birds and shorebirds dot the landscape; and a protected area provides nesting shorebirds the opportunity to thrive.

A bike trail winds along Lake Powell’s coastline on the north side of the park. Benches and rest stops are provided with panoramic views of the lake.

Camp Helen is a great place to kayak/canoe, swim, fish and beach comb. History tours are provided the first Saturday of each month along with guided nature tours the first Thursday of each month at 10 a.m.. Kayak and stand up paddle boards rentals are available. Call 850-890-6928 or go online at www.friendsofcamphelen.org.

An inviting trail at Camp Helen. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Slow down, pack a picnic lunch and appreciate nature at Camp Helen State Park.

A bit of history:
In 1928, Robert E. Hicks purchased 185 acres of land overlooking Philips Inlet, where he built a summer home for his wife, Margret May. Margret named the compound Loch Lomond. Construction of the lodge and out buildings began in the 1930s.

Between 1945 and 1987, Avondale Textile Mills of Sylacauga, Ala. purchased the land from the Hicks and turned it into a resort destination for their employees. During that time, 12 duplex cottages and a recreation hall were built.

The buildings are still standing, with the hall remodeled and some of the cottages with new roofs. One of the cottages has been restored into a restroom facility.

Hours of Operation
Florida state parks are open from 8 a.m. until sundown 365 days a year.

Driving Directions
Camp Helen is located at 23937 Panama City Beach Parkway, Panama City Beach, FL, just west of the Phillips Inlet bridge on the Bay County and Walton county line. The entrance is south of U.S. Hwy 98. ::MAP::

Park Fees
There is an honor entrance station. The fee is $4.00 per vehicle and $1.00 per bicyclist or pedestrian. Click here for park website.

Camp Helen State Park
23937 Panama City Beach Parkway
Panama City Beach, Florida 32413
Phone: 850–233–5059
Fax: 850–236–3204

Citizen Support Organization
The Friends of Camp Helen
P.O. Box 19338
Panama City Beach, Fl. 32407